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Black Tie International Travel  1
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Black Tie International Magazine - Travel - Lisbon on a Lark


By Bill Boggs





by Bill Boggs


Sure, Portugal is having major economic problems, but that doesn't preclude a unique vacation adventure in the capital city, Lisbon.  The Bairro Alto, or "old city" area, is booming as is the adjoining chic Chiado neighborhood.  I recently spent a wonderful five nights in The Leading Small Hotels of the World property, Bairro Alto Hotel.

This charming 5-star hotel offers friendly and most professional service, reminding one of the intimate experience of staying at the boutique Warwick Hotel in New York City.  A stay there includes a generous buffet breakfast at the handsome Flores restaurant, right off the lobby.  It also is open for lunch and dinner.

Across the small square in front of the hotel is the beguiling Bairro Alto---a series of steep cobblestone streets filled with very good and reasonable restaurants, and bars, some of which offer fado music.  There are shops aplenty--but no Gaps or other large chain stores--strictly local items.  At first it seems like you may get lost, but one quickly acquires a sense of direction based on the grid-like layout.  As you wander about you might see clothes hung out to dry on lines that are fluttering just above a shop or pulsating club.  The restaurants are a treat for anyone liking the Mediterranean diet--fresh fish and vegetables, cooked with olive oil.  If buttery sauces are your thing, you will have to search very hard to find them in Lisbon.

Of particular note was the Sea Me restaurant right near the hotel. It features fusion sushi and a bounty of whole fresh fish.  It's obviously very popular with the locals because most tables were filled every night.  Dinner here is taken a bit on the late side.  Do remember this place for excellent fish at great value.

Adjacent to the hotel is the main street of the Chiado area featuring outdoor cafes, trendy shops, and even a small shopping mall.  Colorful Portuguese tiles are a popular souvenir item.  Made locally, these tiles are visible everywhere including the exterior facades of buildings, the interior walls, and in decorative small pieces.

One of Lisbon's hot spots is the Terrasse on the top floor of the Bairro Alto Hotel.  It is open for drinks all day as well as lunch and dinner, with a small menu of salads and sandwiches.  The view from there of the city
and river is spectacular.        

Sightseeing opportunities abound.  A worthwhile day trip is to the ancient village of Sintra, an easy 40 minute train ride from Lisbon.  On the short walk from the train station to the center of town, one passes some large sculptures lining the walkway.  Sintra is a World Heritage Site.  I visited the Palacio Nacional de Sintra, the only surviving royal palace in Portugal from the Middle Ages.  As it turned out, I got there at dusk, shortly before the place was closing and no one else was there.  I wandered about the stunning, magical palace and captured some photos in the late afternoon light.

Walking in Lisbon involves almost constant contact with cobblestones so pack your most shock-absorbing walking shoes and ready yourself for immersion in Portuguese life, culture, food and music.  It is a trip you will cherish.


 Bairro Alto Hotel


Sea Me Restaurant


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